Netafim has revolutionized global irrigation techniques. The story began back in the 1960s when Israel kibbutz farmer Simcha Blass first observed that drips of water could nurture huge trees. He combined his observations with the latest plastic technologies to develop low-pressure drip irrigation systems and in 1964 he signed a contract with Kibbutz Hatzerim, which saw the establishment of Netafim and the setting up of the company’s first production facility in 1965 in the fields of the Negev kibbutz.
50 years later the company continues to refine its original solutions through ongoing R&D to develop new generations of agro-technological systems. Today Netafim is the world’s largest provider of low-pressure drip irrigation solutions with annual sales of $750 million of which over 95% is sold overseas.
These include: drippers and dripper-lines for varying topographies and climates; high precision sprinklers and micro sprinklers, foggers satisfying a variety of irrigation and crop requirements; Electric / Hydraulic valves, smart valve-control systems, versatile solenoid / hydraulic operated systems; Computerized irrigation offering powerful, rugged, and easy-to-operate irrigation controllers, wireless monitoring and control systems, and computer-operated fertilizer injection systems; Greenhouse Technology: structures, climate control, irrigation and growing systems, turnkey, tailor-made and upgrade projects.
Drip irrigation is the most efficient method of irrigation when it comes to water saving. Since the drippers emit the water directly to the soil adjacent to the root system, which absorbs the water immediately, evaporation is minimal. This characteristic is especially important under the conditions prevailing in arid zones. With irrigation using sprinklers or by surface methods, evaporation is enhanced by winds, while in drip irrigation the impact of winds is minimal. Drip irrigation can supply from one liter to 20 liters per hour. With a peak water utilization rate of 95%, this method is suitable for intensive cultivation. Drip irrigation systems designed for use in greenhouses use low-flow emitters that deliver 200cc per hour.
Drip irrigation laterals are buried at a depth of 50cms. The buried system is protected against infiltration by tiny roots around the area of the drippers by the introduction of Tarplan, a material that prevents sprouting near the dripper. Air valves that open when the water is turned off and allow air into the pipe prevent external dirt from being sucked into the dripper. Several types of drippers have been developed: Line drippers, regulated and unregulated fixed drippers, and integrated drippers pre-cast onto the wall of the irrigation lines.
Global Investment in Israeli Technology
Netafim together with Israel’s other leading irrigation equipment manufacturers including NaanDan Jain Irrigation Systems, MetzerPlast and Plastro control about half of the global market of up to $2 billion per year. The surest sign of potential for global growth has been the recent investment in these firms by overseas and Israeli companies. Netafim has been acquired by private equity fund Pan European Permira Funds LLC, Rivulis Plastro by FIMI Opportunity Funds, after US conglomerate John Deere has owned the company for several years, and NaanDan Jain by the Indian company Jain Irrigation.
Rivulis Plastro based on Kibbutz Gevat in northern Israel and NaanDan Jain, also a kibbutz company also develop, produce and market a wide range of drip and sprinkler systems and related pipes and fittings. Like Netafim these products range from the simplest solutions for gardens and small family farms through to sophisticated computerized systems for vast farm or even entire regions. Companies like Netafim, NaanDan and Plastro are happy to take on projects on a turnkey basis and provide advice, planning and after sales instruction and service.
These companies have a global reach including subsidiaries overseas to manufacture piping. Rivulis Plastro and Netafim have subsidiaries throughout Latin, America, Europe and Asia. NaanDan, which also has subsidiaries and offices worldwide, like Plastro, undertakes turnkey projects from feasibility studies covering local market and agronomic conditions, human resources, budgeting and investments through to providing flexible credit packages and implementing the project.
Other advantages of low-pressure drip irrigation include the uniform discharge of water from every dripper fitted onto the lateral pipe. This is true even on moderately sloping terrain. Furthermore, the development of compensated drippers enables uniform irrigation on steeper slopes and the ability to extend laterals with drippers over greater distances. Through the drippers, fertilizers can also be supplied to the plant together with the water. This system is known as “fertigation”. Water and fertilizers are delivered directly to the root system rather than to the total area of the field, thereby economizing on both water and fertilizers.
Drip irrigation is the most efficient method of irrigation for water saving
The quantity of water delivered can be optimized to fit different soil types, avoiding percolation of water beyond the root zone. In addition sandy soils, which cannot be watered by furrows or by flooding, can be efficiently irrigated with drippers. Moreover, the growth of weeds is minimized. Last but not least the planted rows and the dry ground facilitate comfortable access in the field for workers and machines throughout all seasons.
Other companies in the sector include Galcon, based at Kibbutz Kfar Blum in northern Israel, has adapted advanced computer technology to irrigation needs to provide a series of irrigation controllers for agricultural and garden use. Elgo provides irrigation sprinklers and oscillators, watering pistols, guns and wands, quick hose connectors, brass accessories. Hose reels and carts. Underground irrigation systems: Pop-up sprinklers, watering timers. Micro irrigation: and micro sprinklers, drippers, and Sadot irrigation systems manufactures Shibolet irrigation and fertigation platforms for greenhouse and net-house applications.
Industry experts expect the current rising demand for irrigation products to soar when water subsidies are withdrawn by governments in the US and Australia. At the same time, the massive population surge in developing countries, particularly in Asia, is also boosting the need for irrigation technology.